A LANDOWNER criticised for jeopardising the rebuilding of Reeth's flood-wrecked swing bridge is confident agreement can be reached to allow work to go ahead.

The Yorkshire Dales national park authority said the project was in doubt because the owner of the north riverbank refused to give permission for it to proceed. Officials feared grant money would be blocked and public donations would have to be returned.

The dispute arose after Mr David Sizer, who owns the land at Harkerside bank, insisted the project should include flood defence measures to protect his land.

The park authority said this would add up to £40,000 to the estimate of £110,000 and was unnecessary.

Coun Steve Macare, park authority chairman, said: "We have been involved in lengthy discussions with the landowner and, unfortunately, we are not any closer to getting the permission needed. I will make one final effort to secure what the local community, the visiting public and this authority want - the Reeth bridge rebuilt.

"We are not prepared to pay a further £40,000 to build a protective bank, further adding to what is already a very expensive and ambitious project, when we have received professional advice that it is unnecessary and would only shift any problem downstream."

Mr Sizer said he did not want to prevent rebuilding of the bridge, but had a number of issues to discuss regarding siting and structure, how public use would affect the land and the problem of riverbank erosion.

"I spoke to the park authority on July 26 and they seemed quite optimistic that agreement would be possible," said Mr Sizer, who has lived in Reeth for about 20 years. "Foot-and-mouth will prevent it being rebuilt this year but I am sure a solution can be found."

The 42m suspension bridge was swept away last September. It is believed to have been built in 1921 by public subscription and the park stepped in to lead reconstruction after ownership could not be established.

Grants were secured and a public appeal was launched in February by Richmond MP Mr William Hague. It now stands at £3,000.